The mass-buffing was Blu’s response to an exhibition that has put the remains of one of his street pieces on display. Rather than allow his murals to be ripped from walls and displayed in what he considers an inappropriate context, Blu decided to remove all of his murals from the city. One major criticism that has been leveled at Blu, unfairly I think, is that buffing his own art was a spiteful response to the exhibition, depriving the public of popular murals. Hopefully, the critics who might have seen Blu’s protest as childish can appreciate dozens of Italian street artists coming together to make new street art in solidarity with Blu’s action.
It’s Armory Week, which means there is a seemingly endless parade of art fairs happening in New York this weekend. It’s impossible to see everything, but I guess you can try. On Thursday, I visited the Scope, and saw pretty much the entire fair in 30 minutes. I reviewed the fair live on Snapchat (follow me @vandalog), and thought I would repost that review here. So, here is my review of Scope New York 2016, as seen in 30 minutes and reviewed live:
According to Gawker, the piece was painted by members of the TFS crew. What a lot of people seem to have missed so far is that this piece references the iconic DUMP KOCH train painted in 1982 by SPIN TFS in respond to New York Mayor Ed Koch’s war on graffiti. Here’s that train:
If you look closely next to the D in DUMP TRUMP, there’s a little message:
So, whether or not the piece was painted by members of TFS, at least they gave it the green light.
What a beautiful way to update a classic! Who’s feeling inspired?
That’s what I hear on my way to 2nd Ave in Wynwood. It is Saturday December 6th around 9pm, and this is the last big night during Art Basel. A group of guys are tagging this building and praising each other’s tags based on the quality of the drips. I am hungry, tired, and annoyed because it took an hour to get to Wynwood and another hour to park. Not to worry though, soon I’ll reach my destination: 2nd Ave with 23rd St, the heart of Wynwood. Soon at least one of my big problems, my hunger, would be taken care of by one of the 30+ food trucks parked nearby. I just had to navigate through a sea of people, cars, paint cans, beer cans, art tents, music speakers, police in horseback, and of course more people.
Oh dear Wynwood, you have once again left me feeling sad, hopeless, and discouraged. What is it that you’re doing? How did you let yourself get so bad?
This year Wywood Walls turned five and to mark the special occasion curator Jeffrey Deitch called on on the finest ladies in the field for Women on the Walls. International artists Aiko, Miss Van, Fafi, Maya Hayuk, Lady Pink, Faith47, Lakwena, Kashink, Sheryo, Olek, Toofly, Claw Money, Jessie & Katey, Myla, and Shamsia Hassani all created murals or showed in the adjacent exhibition space. The participating artists have come from cities such as Cape Town, Paris, New York, and London. Part gallery part mural exhibition, the project acts as a history guide to the great presence of women muralists.
Women on the Walls is a dream come true and also a proverbial screw you to people who say that the reason women artists are often overshadowed in the media is due to a dearth in street art. That, to be blunt, is bullshit. Older artists and the younger generation they inspired came together in the Wynwood district of Miami this Art Basel to prove their stronghold in the public art community. The scope of media alone proves their mastery of the craft as spray paint, yarn, text, stencils, and free handed characters all co-mingle to form a variety that has something to please most tastes.
Not only is the perfect storm of artists curated in this year’s Wynwood Walls enough to be in awe of, additionally Martha Cooper has shared some breathtaking progress photos. As artfully as the walls are decorated, each image thoughtfully reveals the personas behind the iconography. Each picture displays the strength of these women, whether unveiling the sheer amount of effort behind a production to those who stand boldly in front of completed pieces. Cooper shows that these women are heroes, or warriors as Toofly depicts, taking on whatever challenges lay in their wake and simply killing it.
Let my start by saying that I have no inherent problem with artists selling their art or being pro-some-form-of-capitalism, or even pushing an ultra-consumerist agenda. If someone can make a living making art and doing what they love, great. That’s a lot better than working some job that they hate and giving up art or only making art in their spare time. That’s a large part of why I embrace street artists and graffiti writers who want to sell their work in galleries. Hell, I don’t even have a huge problem with art fairs. It’s not the best way to look at art, but I don’t fault artists or galleries for showing there. They can sell a lot of work and find new clients at fairs. Still…
If there’s an anti-consumerist message inherent in your artwork, maybe trying to sell that work at what is effectively a mall for art, where it costs money just to get in the door and have a look, is not the best way to go about things.
It’s art fair week in Miami right now, which means a good chunk of the art world there partying and buying and selling and painting and hustling. I wish I was there, but I’m in Philadelphia working on my final exams. However, I’m still getting plenty of emails from people in Miami about what’s going on and what I might want to be covering on Vandalog.
The other day, I got an email from Gilf! that included a photo of one of her new pieces accompanied by the following caption:
“This work, continues my exploration within the realms of advertising and its subversive means to propagate consumption. By stealing steel and pallet wood, two materials deeply rooted in the production and transportation of consumer goods, I am choosing to step out of the monetary system of consumption. I use these materials to ask the viewer to rethink his or her place in this unsustainable economy through subliminal ideas through typography. You will find Evolve, along with 3 other similar pieces with Arcilesi Homberg Fine Art at Scope Art Fair in booth J25.”
Two of those three similar pieces are in the photo at the top of this post.
Now, when I read that caption, two things came to mind:
I don’t know where Gilf! stole those materials from, but I’m curious: Did she steal them from Walmart, or from some small warehouse in Brooklyn with unionized labor? It’s just $10-15 worth of materials, but if the act of the theft matters to Gilf!, then the victim matters to me, especially since the work is now for sale for presumably thousands of dollars through Arcilesi Homberg Fine Art (booth J25 at SCOPE).
If Gilf! is going to make an artwork where the production of the work plays into its meaning, I think it’s fair to ask what role the sale of the work has on its meaning as well. Here Gilf! is hoping that the work will be sold at a venue that is all about “the monetary system of consumption” which she claims to be removing herself from. The most recent post-fair press release from SCOPE (for their Basel fair in June) is all about sales. On her own Instagram, Gilf! called Art Basel Miami Beach (the main art fair going on at the moment) “Black Friday for the 1%.” It’s naive to think SCOPE is any different, even if prices are lower. So, for me, seeing Gilf! show these pieces at SCOPE pretty much negates any anti-consumerist message that the work may have. The situation reminds me of the scene in this classic screenprint by Banksy.
Let’s compare this move by Gilf! to what Alec Monopoly has been up to this week. Last night, Alec held “a VIP-only exhibition located aboard a 151-foot yacht” in Miami. Sort of a hilarious setting for an artist whom I always assumed was at least pretending to use The Monopoly Man to critique out of control capitalism, the super-rich and the finance industry, but I recently realized that I’ve actually been looking at Alec’s work all wrong for years.
When have you seen a street artist appropriate Mickey Mouse or Ronald McDonald or The Monopoly Man in order to say, “Let’s go watch a Disney movie, eat at McDonald’s and give high-fives to the folks at Goldman Sachs”? Usually, it seems like street artists using those symbols are more likely to be saying, “Let’s question our obsession with pop culture figures, remember that McDonald’s pays low wages and eating there too much might make you fat and reform our current economic system.” And Alec’s bio on his website states that he “subversively depict[s] various iconic pop culture characters.” A piece with a meaning like “Mickey Mouse is awesome” does not subvert Mickey Mouse, so I figured that his subversion of The Monopoly Man would be about subverting the capitalist system that the character represents. Makes sense, right?
If you actually read interviews with Alec (like this one) or read press releases for his shows (like this one), it turns out that he isn’t making a critique at all. He’s actually celebrating capitalism by using The Monopoly Man character. He has said, “I feel that Mr. Monopoly, Rich “Uncle” Pennybags, represents capitalism, but my use of his image is more about reminding the general population that we are all a part of game that anyone of us can win.” Try telling that to someone without health insurance who’s just been diagnosed with cancer or a student graduating college with $100,000 in debt and no job prospects.
So, I guess I was confused as a result of Alec not understanding what the word “subvert” means. Maybe I am the only one who thought Alec was pretending to critique capitalism. Just in case anyone else was under that impression too, I thought I’d bring it up.
I’m still not a fan of Alec’s work and I find his take on the world to be somewhat naive, but at least he’s not being hypocritical.
I’m not one to see things in black and white. I know people who are upset that Banksy sells his work at all, or that Shepard Fairey has a clothing line or who hate all art fairs, but I don’t have a problem with any of that. I think one of the great things about being an artist today is the potential to make a living and basically be your own boss. Yes, the artist is still participating in a consumerist/capitalist economy and their work may critique that world, but as Gilf! suggests, they can perhaps keep themselves at least a step removed from the worst parts of capitalism. But Banksy selling prints through Pictures on Walls or Shepard selling shirts with a message of “I’m not saying consumerism is good or bad, just that you shouldn’t follow blindly,” is quite a bit different from selling explicitly anti-consumerist art in the midst of an art mall and simultaneously claiming that you’re removing yourself from that system by your actions. That claim is just false. The question is whether or not Gilf! realizes it.
So what should Gilf! do? I would like to say that there’s some way to salvage these artworks, but I’m not sure. Maybe selling them in a less money-centric environment would be a step in the right direction, but I dunno. At the very least, Gilf! needs to acknowledge that selling these artworks in the way she is trying to does not allow her “to step out of the monetary system of consumption” in any significant way. Stealing $10 worth of materials to sell a product in a mall for thousands of dollars? That sounds to me more like the worst parts of capitalism and consumerism than a removal from those systems.
Guerrilla Spam recently took over a tunnel in Turin’s Parco del Valentino for their “Shit Art Fair,” competing with the malls that call themselves “art fairs” and putting art up on the street rather than in a hyper-commercial space. With nothing for sale, it’s a shitty art fair indeed, but a great street art installation. In addition Guerrilla Spam’s own work, they included pieces by JBRock, Galo and others.
Sweet Toof is understandably upset that a recent mural project in Hackney, where he and the rest of the Burning Candy crew painted some of their best illegal street art and graffiti, intentionally avoided including local artists. You’ve gotta love this quote from Sarah Weir, who heads the charity that commissioned the new murals: “We unashamedly wanted to showcase the best international artists and transform this part of the canal into a destination for street art.” That might be the dumbest thing I’ve read all summer, except for course for arguments defending the NSA or calling for Edward Snowden to return to the USA. First of all, murals (while interesting) emulate street art and graffiti, but there is a distinct difference between legal murals by street artists and illegal street art by the same artists. I’m sure that on Vandalog I have referred to murals as street art for the sake of simplicity, but not in a context like this where the difference between murals and street art is actually quite important. Hackney Wick’s canal already is a destination for street art, in large part due to the work of Gold Peg, Sweet Toof and the other members of Burning Candy. Weir is trying to turn it into a destination for murals, most likely at the expense of street art and graffiti if the intense pre-Olympics graffiti removal efforts in the area are anything to go by. Mural projects and festival are awesome, but they are not the same thing as illegal street art or graffiti.
Israel Hernandez, an 18-year-old Miami graffiti writer, was killed this week when he was tazered by police. They were chasing him after catching him writing in an abandoned building. CNN’s coverage of Hernandez’ death was surprisingly fair. Their piece was framed as the tragedy that is clearly is, rather than a piece demonizing Hernandez for his artwork like you might expect from some mainstream media.
I became an instant fan of Switzerland’s NEVERCREW – consisting of Pablo Togni and Christian Rebecchi – when I discovered their transformation of the exterior of a Swiss school. With roots in graffiti and successful ventures into such other artistic expressions as sculpture, designer toys, photography and videos, the talented duo continues to paint large scale murals that are both beautifully executed and intriguingly provocative.
Here are two close-ups from their recent mural executed at the Stroke Urban Art Fair in Munich:
And an earlier outdoor painting in a pedestrian underpass in Monte Carasso:
I love the notion of an affordable art fair that features works by artists whose visions also surface on our streets. The Affordably Fun Art Fair, opening tonight, Friday, 6-10pm at 330 Ellery Street in Bushwick, Brooklyn does just that — presenting over 40 such artists who are selling their works for $150 or less. While visiting, I was struck by the incredible range of works for sale — from the starkly elegant to the boldly comical. Here’s a small sampling:
Conceived and coordinated by Rhiannon Platt, the fair continues from 1-6pm tomorrow, Saturday.